Isaac Chotiner

Training Russia's Enemies
August 17, 2009

On Friday The New York Times had a story about the American military's decision to train Georgian troops, ostensibly for counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. Matt Yglesias seems to think that the training is actually about Russia. He writes: This strikes me as very, very, very silly. If we want to decide, as a matter of foreign policy, that we want to train Georgian troops in order to bolster Tblisi’s efforts to stand up to Moscow despite the risk of angering Russia, then fine. We should look at the costs and benefits of that strategy and maybe decide to adopt it.

Rich Lowry Can't Get Any Respect
August 11, 2009

From Zach Roth over at TPM: It looks like Rick Lowry of National Review offered the White House his services in doing some positive P.R. on behalf of Rove protege Tim Griffin, who the administration had sought to sought to muscle into the U.S. attorney job in Arkansas as a replacement for the fired Bud Cummins. In a January 2007 email, White House political director Sara Taylor wrote: Prior is going after Griffin. He's made this his cause.... We need to find some folks to defend Tim and his credentials, not to mention our policy. Your thoughts? Rich Lowry offered to help Tim. The best part?

Quote Of The Day: When Tautology Meets Absurdity
August 11, 2009

From Quentin Tarantino's interview with Jeffrey Goldberg: “Holocaust movies always have Jews as victims,” he said, plainly exasperated by Hollywood’s lack of imagination. “We’ve seen that story before. I want to see something different. Let’s see Germans that are scared of Jews. Let’s not have everything build up to a big misery, let’s actually take the fun of action-movie cinema and apply it to this situation.” --Isaac Chotiner

Obama's Big Week
August 07, 2009

In the face of declining poll numbers and stalled health care negotiations, The White House has had a remarkably good 48 hours: --The unemployment rate has dipped to 9.4%, despite a loss of over 200,000 jobs --Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has been killed by an American missile strike --Sonia Sotomayor eased her way onto the nation's highest court --The Senate approved more money for the cash-for-clunkers program And these developments arrive on the heels of two American hostages returning home safely from North Korea.

Hamid Karzai As Michael Corleone
August 06, 2009

One of the better chunks of Elizabeth Rubin's excellent New York Times Magazine profile of Hamid Karzai reports on Karzai's brothers, a number of whom are suspected of criminality. This has become a huge political problem for Karzai as he faces re-election. However, this comment from a U.N. official is more amusing than the official seems to realize.  As many Afghans have pointed out, U.S.

Depressing Signs From The Subcontinent
August 05, 2009

The New York Times had a dispiriting story this morning about the latest diplomatic negotiations between India and Pakistan. After months of tension over the attacks in Mumbai last November, in which gunmen from Pakistan rampaged through India’s financial capital and killed more than 160 people, the two sides seemed open to the possibility of resuming full-blown talks. Instead, the mere suggestion of a thaw in relations has been met with fierce public and political resistance in India, providing a nagging reminder of the enormous internal obstacles that both countries face in overcoming their

Quote Of The Day, Crazy Cleric Edition
August 05, 2009

Why is it that the dirtiest minds so often belong to those who want to control the sex lives of other people? The New York Times has an excellent dispatch this morning from Diwaniya, Iraq, where a number of women in the town have taken up wrestling. This has, predictably, drawn a response from local conservative figures: One tribesman has said they should be “slaughtered” if they continue.

Megan Mcardle And The Perils Of Opinion Journalism
August 05, 2009

At the end of a long post about obesity--part of an ongoing debate she has been having with a number of other bloggers--Megan McArdle considers the possibility of government action and writes: Ultimately, the answer to "what could it hurt"?

What Is Malcolm Gladwell Talking About?
August 04, 2009

In The New Yorker this week, Malcolm Gladwell has an alternately confusing and maddening essay about To Kill a Mockingbird and what he calls "the limits of southern liberalism." According to Gladwell, the Atticus Finch character in Harper Lee's book--later immortalized onscreen by Gregory Peck--was the novelistic version of an all-too-common southern politician in the days of Jim Crow. Gladwell's piece begins with the story of Big Jim Folsom, the Alabama governor who sympathized with the plight of black citizens, but resisted profound change.

From Russia With Conspiracy Theories
August 03, 2009

Ellen Barry has a terrific piece in The New York Times on the Russian reaction to Joe Biden's off-the-cuff remarks about Russian-American relations. Within hours, a top Kremlin aide had released a barbed statement comparing Mr. Biden to Dick Cheney. Commentators announced Mr. Biden’s emergence as Washington’s new “gray cardinal” — the figure who, from the shadows, makes all the decisions that matter... For anyone subordinate to the president to allow themselves that freedom is inconceivable, said Vladimir V. Pozner, the host of a talk show on state television. “If it’s not the No.